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500 years after humans and dragons lived in peace together, a disastrous force, Druun, tore the land of Kumandra apart, sowing division and conflict. After Druun’s return, young warrior Raya sets out on a quest to find the last dragon and bring about the monster’s destruction once and for all.
I’ve always had a soft spot for films whose stories involve eastern culture. Maybe it’s the inner martial arts nerd in me that’s drawn me to that side of the world. Or the mystical and mysterious nature of that culture makes it all the more interesting. Whatever it may be, I found Raya and the Last Dragon to be a thoroughly enjoyable film. While set in a fictional universe, the Asian influences are all over this film and help to make it one of Disney’s true sweeping action adventure epics.
As a story that in its true core tells a sprawling story of hope for unity in a world divided, this is something we all need to see and hear in this 21st century world where the only thing we all seem to have in common is the fact that we don’t think we have anything in common at all and thus have remained divided on almost every single little thing. I could go off on a rant about that in and of itself but that’s not why I’m here. After the warring tribes of what was once the united world of Kumandra destroyed and stole pieces of a magical gem, their world was thrust into chaos as an ancient enemy know as the Druun resurfaced and began turning the world’s population to stone. I could continue but there’s many places to go to find a full summary and I prefer to keep my reviews relatively spoiler free.
The characters in Raya’s rag tag group of gem hunters are exactly what you would expect from a Disney movie, hilarious and each with their own stand out personality. One of the best in my opinion is the ten year old boy voiced by Isaac Wang. He steals the show in every scene he’s in and made me laugh and cheer for him once he started showing his heroic side. All of them have their own quirks that makes them a great addition and players extremely well off of each other. Last but not least there’s Raya herself. While she doesn’t stand out as well as the others and seems at some parts to take a back seat to the more crazy behaviors of her peers, she is still the glue that holds the group together and is a natural leader.
It seems like with each movie, the animation gets better and better. And this is one of the first that seems to be on par with the legendary Pixar. From the driest desert to the most vividly colored conclusion I’ve seen in recent years, this film absolutely creates and makes its world as believable as it could be. All of the colors are rich, all of the animations and emotions the characters show are fluid and natural. Personally my only regret is I’m watching it for the first time at home on Disney+ rather than on the big screen. Agewise, although this movie would be fun for all ages, it is definitely geared more towards a slightly older audience. Your little ones might find some things pretty hilarious but overall I would say this is a film more geared towards the 12 and over crowd.
All in all, everything came together just perfectly to create a film that one part mystical, one part fantastical, one part adventure epic, and two parts heart. I for one am glad my family and I made the premiere purchase on Disney+ and get to sit and watch this movie more. It was a great ride and I’m looking forward to the next go round.
P.S. As I said in my review, I purchased this as part of the Disney+ Premiere Access program. It was an extra $29.99 charge in addition to the subscription cost. Some may complain about the extra charge. But, do the math. I have four in my family. That would easily be over $40 in movie theater tickets alone. Not counting any snacks. Sure, the lack of big screen and big sound is a slight drawback. But, now I own it and can watch it again whenever I feel like. So, that’s a win in my book.
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